Violent crime is up in Louisville compared to this date last year, and Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad said the coronavirus pandemic is to blame. At the same time, domestic violence calls are down, he said.
Conrad told the Metro Council’s public safety committee Wednesday that the rate of homicides and non-fatal shootings in particular is higher for this point in the year than it was in 2019. He said the increases began before the pandemic did, then accelerated.
“What is clear to me, the people that are out there engaging in this violence don’t seem to care about the risks of the virus,” he said. “This adds to the challenges for our officers and our detectives as they go about doing their jobs.”
There were 36 criminal homicides in Louisville as of Wednesday, up from 22 by this date last year, said Lieutenant Donny Burbrink of the homicide unit. Conrad added context: there were 26 homicides in 2018, 36 in 2017 and 34 in 2016.
Non-fatal shootings increased at an even greater rate. Conrad reported 111 such shootings as of today, compared to 61 by this date last year. In 2018, there were 100; in 2017, there were 102; and in 2016, there were 110.
Conrad said the closure of schools, community centers and libraries has created an environment that is “ripe for violence.”
“Gang disputes, drug dealing and domestic violence thrive under these conditions,” he said.
Since the start of the year, calls related to domestic violence are down nearly 4%, while arrests are down 9% compared to the year before, Conrad said. But in the period starting March 6, when the first confirmed coronavirus case was announced in Kentucky, calls have decreased more than 6% while arrests are up about 21%.
“I believe wholeheartedly that there are victims out there that aren’t in a position to report what’s happening to them,” Conrad said. “You know, they’re not in a position where they’re able to go to school, or go to their work, or go somewhere where someone might — where they might be able to get away from that abuser to be able to make that report.”
Upon questioning from council members, Conrad also said he is concerned about next year’s budget, which is likely to include major cuts without fiscal support for operations from the federal government.
“I am concerned about what that will not only do for our department, and all other Metro services, but for this community in general,” Conrad said.
LMPD has been losing officers to neighboring departments over issues including pensions and pay. Councilman Anthony Piagentini (R-19) said the council needs to address pay this budget cycle so the department stops “hemorrhaging” officers, but Brent Ackerson (D-26) said that was unlikely given the budget crisis.
Last week, Mayor Greg Fischer proposed a continuation budget in hopes of staving off cuts. He has called repeatedly for support from the federal government that’s not dedicated to coronavirus response.